Building a Productive (and Realistic) Work Schedule
Loading your work schedule too heavy goes with the entrepreneurial “I can do it!” personality.
We start small; clients ask us to take on more and we say yes. Friends of clients ask if we can take them on and we say yes. Those new clients want more and we say yes.
Next thing we look up and we have 190 hours of work due in seven allotted hours.
It is not only people working for themselves who overbook. In many cases, managers in large corporations impose unrealistic deadlines on projects. Employees who need their jobs to sustain themselves and their families agree to the schedule for fear of reprisals, and the next thing, they have 12 days of work to be accomplished in four days.
The creators of the unrealistic work schedules have pride in their “we make it happen” personalities, while forgetting the toll such pressure takes on them and their team.
Far too many projects are given unrealistic deadlines because of our inability to say “no,” for fear we will lose a chunk of our business. We sacrifice the sleep we need, the family that requires our nourishing, and our own personal health to do things that in the grand scheme of life are just not worth the sacrifices we are asked to make to accomplish them.
My team and I believe in delivering good work in a timely fashion. So do most businesses and professionals.
But it is time we all recognized that keeping unrealistic schedules is a continuing source of stress and burn-out, and a road to serious health issues.
And on a simple business level, it can shortchange our clients and encourage mistakes, shortcuts and sloppy work that does not provide them the best possible work for their investment.
Whether you are a solopreneur, run a small company, or manage a mega corporation, paying attention to realistic scheduling is of paramount importance.
All projects require schedules. That is where we define what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and when it needs to be completed. Normally it become the single most important part of the project plan and the one all those involved post prominently or commit to memory.
Creating the project schedule for best results needs to be about more than time. It needs to identify project priorities, the best chronological sequence of tasks, and who will do what work. It is designed to ensure that the project moves from beginning to closure as efficiently as possible and that the end product is of the finest possible quality.
Part of ensuring a schedule is realistic is to establish milestones that truly reflect the amount of tasks that need to be accomplished between them. When such a clear plan is established, it gives the customer confidence and a reasonable expectation of when the project will be delivered to them.
Most companies are quite efficient at establishing a single project plan. The issue that I come across frequently in small businesses is the failure to consider the impact of multiple projects running simultaneously.
If great care is not taken to ensure we are aware of all the tasks assigned to a small team, overlapping projects create chaos and deadlines slip as the same people are trying to bring more than one project to closure at the same time period.
Sometimes the whole scheduling mess starts with the customer who has his or her own schedule and demands “the work is yours, as long as you can deliver it by….” Not wanting to let a good project slide away, the manager agrees, and then tries to make it work.
In a nutshell, the key issues behind unrealistic schedules are:
- Failure from the start to understand how long each task takes.
- Agreeing to customer demands without realistically looking at the work flow schedule.
- Assuming it all right for your staff to pull all-nighters and cancel weekends and holidays.
- Ignoring concurrent projects and how they impact the pressure on your staff.
- Failing to consider the “what if” part that can cause delays in all projects.
How can you avoid falling into the unrealistic scheduling trap?
Establish a system of analyzing each project on completion, including the time component associated with specific tasks. Build a historical database that can be used to calculate time needed for other projects.
Pay attention to the science of scheduling and learn to find ways to guide both clients and staff into options if their schedules are unrealistic. Ensure each project is done sufficiently before deadline to do quality checks and make revisions if necessary.
Ensure that you have trained contingency workers who can come in periodically as freelancers to pick up the slack if your regular team is falling down on the deadline.
If being late becomes chronic, you need to assess the work flow within your company. Look at all your resources and the level of quality and ask yourself how you can do it better.
Otherwise, your schedule becomes meaningless, and your quality and production will take a hit as a result.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 34 countries, 14 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
To check out Paula’s book, “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything” go to Amazon http://ow.ly/i8yW307ix67
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